Top Tenner: World Cup controversies
The World Cup comes along every four years, and with it comes an eclectic mix of controversies that cross between sport, politics and the absurd. The world's biggest footballing event has seen many moments of controversy over the years. Here, Top Tenner brings you some of the most memorable. 10. Graham Poll books Josip Simunic thrice, 2006 The 2006 World Cup arguably didn't go according to plan for referee Graham Poll. After he made the mistake of not sending Josip Simunic off after booking him twice in Croatia's final group game against Australia, was it better or worse for the Thing from Tring to have then booked him a third time? Sure, the mistake would have been the same, but there wouldn't be the final flourish, the three-card trick gags and the added slapstick moment of a third yellow card. On the other hand, he eventually got the final decision correct, so that's something. Incidentally, not enough is made of Simunic himself failing to take advantage of his piece of luck -– his third booking came just three minutes after his second. 9. South Korea's "favourable" refereeing, 2002 Manager Guus Hiddink is a national hero in South Korea after masterminding the feel-good story of the co-hosts advancing to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup. Feel-good, that is, as long as you aren't a fan of Spain or Italy. If ropey decisions in one game had helped the Koreans out then you might have been able to write it off as a bad game, but when it happened twice ... well, a decidedly foul whiff started to descend over things. Italy were the first victims, with a fair goal disallowed and Francesco Totti dismissed for a dive after being fouled in the penalty area, before they were knocked out with a golden goal by Ahn Jung-Hwan -- although it must be pointed out that the Italians missed some genuine sitters along the way. Then Spain were on the wrong end of some “questionable” decisions, with two goals disallowed and the linesmen's flags on hair triggers. “Italy was right!” exclaimed the headline in Marca, while Byron Moreno of Ecuador, who refereed the Italy game, was suspended by his national federation for some suspect domestic performances and later pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle six kilos of heroin into the United States.
8. A Kuwaiti sheik gets a goal disallowed, 1982 The instinct for many when a team surrounds the referee following a controversial decision is to wonder why they're bothering, because the man in black isn't going to change his mind. However, Kuwait provided an example of why it's occasionally worth badgering the officials, although perhaps it works only if you've got a sheik to make your case. In the 1982 World Cup, Kuwait were drawn against France -- Platini, Tigana, Giresse et al -- so naturally it seemed they wouldn't have much of a chance. And so it proved, with the French strolling to a 3-1 lead before Platini played in Giresse to spank home another. However, a scamp in the crowd blew a rather official-sounding whistle, causing the Kuwaiti players to stop, assuming it was the referee who had called a halt to proceedings. The incident saw Sheikh Fahad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the head of the Kuwaiti FA, lead a protest from the stands against the goal, with the Kuwaiti players refusing to play on until the goal had been disallowed. And, remarkably, it was. Of course, France did actually score a fourth in the latter stages. 7. Diego Maradona vs. England, 1986 Ah Diego. The World Cup has seen the best and the worst of Maradona -- indeed, one five-minute spell of one game has seen his best and worst. Shortly after halftime of Argentina's World Cup quarterfinal against England, Maradona advanced toward the English penalty area and fed Jorge Valdano, who failed to control the ball. Then Steve Hodge hooked the ball into the air and toward his own goal. Maradona had continued his run, and went up for the ball with Peter Shilton, reaching it just before him and diverting it into the net. Which of course isn't the whole story, but you know which part of his anatomy Maradona used to score the goal. "Come hug me or the referee isn't going to allow it," El Diego claimed he said as he wheeled away in unapologetic celebration. 6. Argentina at the 1978 World Cup A veritable barrel of controversy, this one. It was, to put things mildly, quite important that hosts Argentina did well at this World Cup, with dictator Jorge Videla placing a good deal of faith in a home win to spruce up the country's image. Argentina didn't start brilliantly, unconvincingly making it through the first group stage, and after a marginal win over Poland and a 0-0 draw with Brazil in the second group stage, they needed a four-goal victory in the final game against Peru to qualify for the final. They won 6-0, with the Peruvians curiously lax in the second half (although they did hit the post twice in the first), with an assortment of wild theories put forward as to how, if at all, the game was fixed. When the final did come around, the Johan Cruyff-less Netherlands (he stayed at home after a kidnap attempt on him and his family) were sent out onto the pitch well before Argentina, leaving them to soak up 10 minutes of spittle and abuse from the assembled 70,000 in the Estadio Monumental. And when the home team did eventually emerge, the Argentines questioned a perfectly legal cast worn on the arm of Netherlands midfielder Rene van der Kerkhof. With the edge well and truly taken off the Dutch performance, Argentina won 3-1. 5. Italy wear black shirts, 1938 In 1938, relations between Italy and the rest of the world were strained during the rule of Benito Mussolini. Still, a clash of kits is probably not at the top of a list of “Things likely to cause a diplomatic incident.” In the quarterfinal of the 1938 tournament, Italy faced hosts France, and as both teams traditionally wear blue, the visiting Azzurri were asked if they'd mind wearing their changed strip. Italy's standard away jersey was all white, but Mussolini directed his players to instead don all black, the symbolic colour of the Italian fascist paramilitary. This, predictably, did not go down at all well with the thousands of French and Italian antifascist protestors present, but Mussolini added an extra frisson to proceedings by ordering the team to hold their fascist salutes for so long that the protestors ran out of energy and ceased their howling. 4. Harald Schumacher clatters Patrick Battiston, 1982 “Out of his goal raced the burly Schumacher,” wrote Brian Glanville in the Sunday Times, about Harald Schumacher's charge out of goal that put Patrick Battiston into a coma during the France vs. West Germany semifinal in the 1982 World Cup. “Battiston beat him to the ball, but Schumacher thundered into him, brutally smashing him to the ground with a blow of the forearm and callously leaving him, minus two teeth, so badly hurt that there were fears he would die.” The physical scars have healed, but clearly, some 30 years on, the mental ones have some way to go. "I have forgiven him," Battiston told RTL in 2012. "I do not particularly want to meet him. Over time, I realise that people have forever marked him with this. But now it's finished. It was [an incident] on the field of play; we'll never know if it was deliberate or not." 3. Geoff Hurst's goal, 1966 There's a (quite possibly) apocryphal story about Tofiq Bahramov, the Azerbaijani linesman who ruled Geoff Hurst's second and England's third goal against West Germany in the 1966 World Cup final legitimate, being asked about the decision on his deathbed. “Stalingrad,” he is said to have replied, referencing the hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops and civilians killed by the Nazis in World War II. Whether that's true or not we may never know, but what we can be fairly certain of is that Bahramov was wrong, and that Hurst's shot was barely even close to going over the line after bouncing down from the crossbar. Indeed, Bahramov himself didn't think so either -- he believed that the ball had actually rebounded from the roof of the net, rather than the woodwork, so any crossing or otherwise of the line after that was moot. 2. The Battle of Santiago, 1962 There are few more definitive accounts of a sporting event than the great David Coleman's summary of this group game in 1962 between hosts Chile and Italy. “Good evening. The game you're about to see is the most stupid, appalling, disgusting and disgraceful exhibition of football, possibly in the history of the game.” In a particularly violent tournament, this game will forever be remembered for the way in which the two sets of players went at each other, with very little focus on the ball. The first foul occurred after just 12 seconds; the first booking after four minutes (which actually took 10 minutes when armed police had to escort Giorgio Ferrini off). A broken nose, multiple punches and kicks followed and, in the end, it was remarkable that only two Italians, Mario David and Ferrini, were sent off by referee Ken Aston. The score ended 2-0 to Chile by the way. 1. The Anschluss game, 1982 The upside for Algeria is that this was the game that forced FIFA to change, and that is no mean feat. Of course, that isn't huge consolation for a team that was basically cheated out of the 1982 World Cup by West Germany and Austria, who, knowing that a 1-0 win for the Germans would send both sides through to the second phase, played out a tedious 80 minutes after Horst Hrubesch's early goal, passing the ball gently around midfield in a manner that would have embarrassed the most slack training session. The Austrian TV commentator was so disgusted that he refused to speak for the last 30 minutes, and his German counterpart called the collusion "disgraceful and has nothing to do with football." "Our performances forced FIFA to make that change, and that was even better than a victory," Algeria's Lakhdar Belloumi told the Guardian a few years ago, referencing the change that meant all final group games would henceforth be played at the same time. "It meant that Algeria left an indelible mark on football history."